The Ledes

Thursday, February 11, 2016.

AP: "Sirhan Sirhan was denied parole Wednesday for fatally shooting Robert F. Kennedy after a confidante of the slain senator who was shot in the head forgave him and repeatedly apologized for not doing more to win his release. Paul Schrade's voice cracked with emotion during an hour of testimony on his efforts to untangle mysteries about the events of June 5, 1968. The 91-year-old former labor leader said he believed Sirhan shot him but that a second unidentified shooter felled Kennedy."

The Wires

White House Live Video
February 11

The White House has no scheduled live feeds for today.

Public Service Announcement

New York Times (February 4): "Pregnant women whose male sexual partners have spent time in a country with confirmed transmissions of the Zika virus should either abstain from sex or use condoms during intercourse for the duration of their pregnancy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced.'

USA Today: "Women of childbearing age should avoid alcohol unless they're using contraception, federal health officials said Tuesday, in a move to reduce the number of babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome. 'Alcohol can permanently harm a developing baby before a woman knows she is pregnant,' said Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 'About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and even if planned, most women won’t know they are pregnant for the first month or so, when they might still be drinking.'"

New York Times (January 14): "Federal health officials are debating whether to warn pregnant women against travel to Brazil and other Latin American and Caribbean countries where mosquitoes are spreading the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in newborn babies. Officials say it could be the first time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises pregnant women to avoid a specific region during an outbreak." ...

     ... NYT Update (January 15): "Federal health officials on Friday advised pregnant women to postpone traveling to 13 Latin American or Caribbean countries and Puerto Rico where mosquitoes are spreading the Zika virus, which has been linked to brain damage in babies." ...

... The Washington Post reports on the crisis in Brazil.

Washington Post: "Scientists announced Thursday that, after decades of effort, they have succeeded in detecting gravitational waves from the violent merging of two black holes in deep space. The detection was hailed as a triumph for a controversial, exquisitely crafted, billion-dollar physics experiment and as confirmation of a key prediction of Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity."

New York Times: "... 21-year-old [Arthur Ashe] toppled the tournament’s top-seeded tennis player in a stunning upset on July 30, 1964. We published two photographs of Dennis Ralston, ranked No. 2 in the nation at the time, who walked off the court in defeat. But we didn’t run a single photograph of the winner.... On that day in 1964, he was ranked sixth in the nation and had yet to win a national title. ...

... The 1964 Times story is here. The page has blown up the above photo, worth viewing just to feast your eyes on that gorgeous young man. ...

... The Times is publishing previously unpublished photos of black historical figures & events every day this month. You can see those published to date here.

CW: Not sure if the movie is any good, but Ron Howard's intro is primo. Here's the trailer:

... The New York Times story, by Brooks Barnes, is here. "Kept a secret for months — no small task in Hollywood — 'Funny or Die Presents Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal: The Movie' was released to coincide with Mr. Trump’s victory on Tuesday in the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary."

New York Times: The leader of a group of "aging thieves" who last year pulled off "the largest burglary in England’s history" may have been an ex-policeman. The others have been captured, but "Basil" is still at large & his identity is unknown to investigators. Surely there will be a movie.

Washington Post: "Media mogul Sumner Redstone has resigned as board chairman at CBS Corp. after a court battle raised questions about the 92-year-old executive’s mental competence. He was replaced by Leslie Moonves, the longtime CBS president and chief executive, CBS announced Wednesday. The transition took effect Tuesday when Redstone was appointed to the role of CBS chairman emeritus, CBS said."

... New York Times: "A small 16th-century oil on panel largely kept in storage at a Kansas City, Mo., museum is a work by the Dutch Renaissance master Hieronymus Bosch, researchers [in the Netherlands] said on Monday, a finding that, if accepted by other scholars, would add to the tiny list of about 25 recognized Bosch paintings in the world. The painting, 'The Temptation of St. Anthony,' dated 1500-1510, had previously been attributed to the workshop of Bosch or to a follower of Bosch, known for his comic and surreal images of heaven and hell and the earthly moral purgatory in between."

Radio host Diane Rehm discusses her "retirement" plans with Karen Heller of the Washington Post.

Washington Post: "A lost story by famed British children’s author Beatrix Potter — the Tale of Kitty-in-Boots — has been discovered among her memorabilia and will be published this year more than a century after she wrote it. Jo Hanks, a publisher with Penguin Random House who made the discovery at London’s Victoria & Albert museum in 2013, called the story the biggest Potter discovery in generations and almost certainly the last, the London Times Newspaper reported Tuesday."

Boston Globe: "Late Night host (and New Hampshire native) Seth Meyers stars in this trailer for his fake movie, Boston Accent, which just laughs at all the devices used in every movie ever made in Boston":

Tim Egan's Confession: "I can no longer wait in a grocery store line, or linger for a traffic light, or even pause long enough to let a bagel pop from the toaster, without reflexively reaching for my smartphone."

Planet Nine. Caltech: "Caltech researchers have found evidence of a giant planet tracing a bizarre, highly elongated orbit in the outer solar system. The object, which the researchers have nicknamed Planet Nine, has a mass about 10 times that of Earth and orbits about 20 times farther from the sun on average than does Neptune (which orbits the sun at an average distance of 2.8 billion miles). In fact, it would take this new planet between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make just one full orbit around the sun. The researchers, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown, discovered the planet's existence through mathematical modeling and computer simulations but have not yet observed the object directly." ...

... CW: Planet Nine, my ass. I will never abandon Pluto! But this is a mighty thrilling development. ...

... UPDATE. Rachel Feltman of the Washington Post interviews Mike Brown, one of the discoverers of Planet Nine. It turns out, as certainly every astronomer knows, that Mike Brown was also the guy who killed Pluto! Even his daughter is mad at him for that.

New York Times: "Five planets will parade across the dawn sky early Wednesday[, January 20,] in a rare celestial spectacle set to repeat every morning until late next month. Headlining the planetary performance are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. It will be the first time in more than a decade that the fab five will be simultaneously visible to the naked eye, according to Jason Kendall, who is on the board of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York."

Los Angeles Times: "The backlash against this year's Academy Award nominations escalated Monday with announcements by director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith that they would boycott the Feb. 28 Oscars ceremony, citing the absence of people of color in all four acting categories for the second year in a row. If other prominent entertainment industry figures join the boycott, it has the potential to spoil Hollywood's annual showcase event."

Donald Trump playing Donald Trump in movies & on teevee shows:

New York Times: "#OscarsSoWhite, that damning hashtag that made the rounds last year, can again, unhappily, be revived for this year’s Oscar nominations, which were announced Thursday morning.... The only Academy nods for two of the year’s biggest films about African-American characters went to white people.... In all the lead categories — best director, picture, and all four acting categories — only Alejandro G. Iñárritu, the Mexican auteur who won best director and picture last year, for 'Birdman,' adds a note of diversity. This year he was nominated for 'The Revenant.'”

Los Angeles Times: "Nominations for the 88th Academy Awards have been announced, and 'The Revenant' is leading with 12, including for best picture. Other nominees for best picture are 'The Big Short,' 'Bridge of Spies,' 'Brooklyn,' 'Mad Max: Fury Road,' 'The Martian,' 'Room,' and 'Spotlight.' All the snubs, surprises and reactions from nominees coming below." Full coverage via the linked page.

Christian Science Monitor: "... thanks to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Purdue University, the lowly incandescent bulb is getting a jolt of new life. The six-researcher team says it has found a way to boost the bulb's efficiency twenty-fold, which would leave today's favored compact fluorescents (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in the dust, according to a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Nanotechnology." ...

     ... CW: If these bulbs go into production, it should make Rand Paul very, very happy. If only MIT could do something about his big-shit problem. Science does have its limits.

Los Angeles Times: "A 21-year odyssey came to an end Tuesday when National Football League owners voted to allow the St. Louis Rams to move to Los Angeles for the 2016 season and gave the San Diego Chargers an option to join the Rams in Inglewood."

** Washington Post: "In a paper published in the open-access journal eLife this week, researchers say they have pinpointed what may well be one of evolution’s greatest copy mess-ups yet: the mutation that allowed our ancient protozoa predecessors to evolve into complex, multi-cellular organisms.... Incredibly, in the world of evolutionary biology, all it took was one tiny tweak, one gene, and complex life as we know it was born." The paper is here. ...

... CW: Sorry, fundies, this is a lot more exciting than a trip to the Noah's ark amusement park or whatever it is.

The Los Angeles Times' Golden Globe coverage is here.

New Yorker: More Pluto!

New York: "Lumosity is one of these 'brain training' programs, and yet, according to the Federal Trade Commission, many of those claims aren’t backed up by science. On Tuesday, Lumos Labs — the company behind Lumosity — agreed to settle with the Federal Trade Commission for $2 million for misleading consumers on claims that playing these mental games would help with cognitive performance and prevent mental decline as we age. 'Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,' Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. 'But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.'”

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Tuesday
Sep102013

The Commentariat -- Sept. 11, 2013

... The New York Times has the transcript of the speech. ...

... Short Version. Erin McClam (a new McDonald's sandwich??) of NBC News recaps the President's speech & related news. ...

... Over there on MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell has nothing but bad stuff to say about President Obama & any deal that might be reached with Syria. Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Chris Matthews. Ed Schultz & Al Sharpton contradicted her -- but mostly not till Mitchell moved on to spread her shit on NBC News. ...

... Maureen Dowd makes Andrea Mitchell sound like an Obama groupie, by comparison. Dowd trashes Obama, Kerry & any other Democrats (Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid) who come to mind. ...

... George Packer of the New Yorker is tough, too, but in a more measured & thoughtful way: "... the Administration has had the good fortune to stumble into diplomacy, randomly sprung from the trap it set for itself. I'd say the chances of missile strikes are now less than one in ten. The sudden turn of events has already led the Syrian government to reverse its longstanding policy of denying that it possesses chemical weapons, a situation that would have Monty Python-like possibilities if not for the daily horrors. That move suggests the better possibilities of diplomacy." ...

... John Dickerson of Slate is critical but fair: "The best new argument the president has for his Syria policy is that the threat appears to be working. The outlines of the Syrian offer to give up chemical weapons will become clear soon enough and we'll all learn whether this pause was a bluff or a genuine breakthrough. If it's the latter, then what looked like a confusing speech in the middle of a fishtailing policy will mark the moment when Obama's hard line started to pay off. If it's just a bluff, then the president will again need that Congressional vote, and his remarks from tonight will be long in the distance." ...

... Michael Shear, et al., of the New York Times: "The United States will begin working with its allies at the United Nations to explore the viability of a Russian plan to avert military action against Syria by having the international community take control of the Syrian chemical weapons stockpile, a senior White House official said on Tuesday. The decision to work through the United Nations came after President Obama spoke Tuesday morning with President François Hollande of France and Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, the White House official said." ...

... Stacy Meichtry, et al., of the Wall Street Journal: "A nearly immediate impasse over a United Nations resolution on removing Syria's chemical weapons sent American, British and French diplomats into a huddle on Tuesday, as they sought to craft a version stern enough to ensure Syrian compliance without spurring a Russian veto. Russia rejected France's initial demand for muscular wording aimed at forcing Syria to hand over the weapons on a deadline and under the threat of force. Moscow canceled a meeting it had called at the Security Council and set the stage for a possible diplomatic standoff." ...

... RT: "Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Syria's chemical arms handover will only work if the US and its allies renounce the use of force against Damascus.... Putin confirmed that he and President Barack Obama had 'indeed discussed' such a possibility on the sidelines of the G20 summit in St. Petersburg last week. It was agreed, Putin said, 'to instruct Secretary of State [John Kerry] and Foreign Minister [Sergey Lavrov] to work together and see if they can achieve some progress in this regard.'" ...

I had some conversations about this [Russian proposal] with my counterpart from Russia last week. President Putin raised the issue with President Obama at St. Petersburg. President Obama directed us to try to continue to talk and see if it is possible. So it is not something that -- you know, suddenly emerged, though it did publicly. But it cannot be allowed to be a delay.... I didn't misspeak. I was asked about it. I responded because I was asked. -- Secretary of State John Kerry, at a House Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday ...

... Rosie Gray of BuzzFeed on how the administration changed its story about Kerry's remark on Monday re: the Russian proposal. CW: I think if you can read diplomatese, you'll see that the statements about the statement (see, I can even write it!) are not inconsistent. ...

... The Times has a liveblog of events surrounding the Syrian crisis. The Washington Post's liveblog is here. ...

... Ezra Klein: "The White House may really be about to win on Syria.... If Assad is willing to sign the [chemical weapons convention] treaty and stop using chemical weapons [as the AP has tweeted], they should declare victory. It's a better outcome than they could have hoped for. And they might get it without firing a single shot." ...

... Charles Pierce on Senators' reactions to a visit from President Obama. He writes a special tribute to Li'l Randy: "Nothing about the swift turn of events was stranger, though, than hearing Senator Aqua Buddha's enthusiastic support of the U.N., an organization that his pappy, Crazy Uncle Liberty (!), has looked upon as a Trojan Horse of UnFreedom for 30 years. 'There's also a valid argument to be made in some of us who were working very hard to delay the bombing, we've had a chance to get to diplomacy,' said Rand Paul of Kentucky." ...

... Here's the Post's most recent update on where members of Congress stand on the vote to authorize the use of force against Syria.

** A Gilded Age of Our Own. Annie Lowrey of the New York Times: "An updated study by the prominent economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty shows that the top 1 percent of earners took more than one-fifth of the country's total income in 2012, one of the highest levels recorded in the century that the government has collected the relevant data. The top 10 percent of earners took more than half of all income. That is the highest recorded level ever. The figures underscore that even after the recession the country remains in a kind of new Gilded Age, with income as concentrated as it was in the years that preceded the Great Depression, if not more so."

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "National Security Agency personnel regularly searched call tracking data using thousands of numbers that had not been vetted in accordance with court-ordered procedures, according to previously secret legal filings and court opinions released by the Obama administration Tuesday. The agency also falsely certified to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that analysts and technicians were complying with the court's insistence that searches only be done with numbers that had a 'reasonable, articulable suspicion' of terrorism, according to a senior intelligence official who briefed reporters prior to release of the documents." ...

     ... The Guardian story, by Spencer Ackerman, is here. "... documents, mostly from 2009 and declassified Tuesday, describe what Walton said were 'thousands' of American phone numbers improperly accessed by government counterterrorism analysts.... They also indicate that US government officials, including NSA director Keith Alexander, gave misleading statements to the court about how they carried out that surveillance." ...

     ... Scott Shane of the New York Times: "The agency uses orders from the intelligence court to compel phone companies to turn over records of numbers called and the time and duration of each call.... Since [Edward] Snowden disclosed the program, the agency has said that ... it makes only a few hundred queries in the database each year, when it has 'reasonable, articulable suspicion' that a telephone number is connected to terrorism. But the new documents show that the agency also compares each day's phone call data as it arrives with an 'alert list' of thousands of domestic and foreign phone numbers that it has identified as possibly linked to terrorism. The agency told the court that all the numbers on the alert list had met the legal standard of suspicion, but that was false. In fact, only about 10 percent of 17,800 phone numbers on the alert list in 2009 had met that test, a senior intelligence official said." ...

     ... CW: It's worth emphasizing that these documents were not voluntarily released as a result of President Obama's enlightened "transparency" standards. As Ackerman reports, "The documents ... came after the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation successfully sued the FBI for more disclosure about the phone records collection through the Freedom of Information Act. A federal court in August ordered an initial round of disclosure to occur Tuesday." Not only does the public have a need to know when a government agency breaks the law, the agency itself will not function within the law if its lawbreaking is never subjected to public scrutiny.

Local News

David Halbfinger & David Chen of the New York Times: "Bill de Blasio, whose campaign for mayor of New York tapped into a city's deepening unease with income inequality and aggressive police practices, captured far more votes than any of his rivals in the Democratic primary on Tuesday. But as Mr. de Blasio, an activist-turned-operative and now the city's public advocate, celebrated a remarkable come-from-behind surge, it was not clear if he had won the 40 percent needed to avoid a runoff election on Oct. 1 with William C. Thompson Jr., who finished second. At night's end, he had won just over 40 percent of the ballots counted; thousands of paper ballots had yet to be tallied, which could take days.... The winner of the unusually spirited Republican contest was Joseph J. Lhota, a no-nonsense former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. He defeated John A. Catsimatidis, a voluble billionaire who ran an often whimsical campaign." ...

... Mara Gay of the Daily News adds a bizarre coda to election night in her report on Sydney Leathers -- Anthony Weiner's ex-sexting partner -- who attempted to crash Weiner's "victory" party. Article includes multiple mammograms; if she ever grows up, Leathers will be tremendously embarrassed by her youthful indiscretion. ...

... Kate Taylor of the New York Times: "Eliot Spitzer lost a bid for political redemption on Tuesday as he was defeated in the Democratic primary for New York City comptroller by the current Manhattan borough president, Scott M. Stringer. With 97 percent of the precincts reporting early Wednesday, Mr. Stringer was ahead 52.1 percent to 47.9 percent." ...

... Jonathan Chait of New York on "the dashed dreams of President Bloomberg.... Bloombergism is the sort of thing the Constitution was designed to prevent." A highly readable critique of Bloomberg's arrogance & how he decided to translate it into public policy, the public itself be damned.

** Lynn Bartels, et al., of the Denver Post: "An epic national debate over gun rights in Colorado on Tuesday saw two Democratic state senators ousted for their support for stricter laws, a 'ready, aim, fired' message intended to stop other politicians for pushing for firearms restrictions. Senate President John Morse and Sen. Angela Giron will be replaced in office with Republican candidates who petitioned onto the recall ballot."

John Eligon of the New York Times: "As a Democrat facing a State Legislature with veto-proof Republican majorities, Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri has not claimed big victories lately. So when he began stumping the state against a deep Republican tax cut that he had vetoed, he might have seemed to be on a political fool's errand. But over the summer, Mr. Nixon has turned the debate away from the Republican argument that lower taxes bring jobs and recast the tax cut as one that would hurt education and mental health services. The state's school boards have rallied to his side. More than 100 of them have passed resolutions supporting the veto. And with a veto session set to begin on Wednesday, it is the supporters of the tax cut who are now pessimistic."

Stupid News

Julian Pecquet of the Hill: "Thousands of demonstrators are expected to descend on the Capitol on Wednesday to mark the Sept. 11, 2012, attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans." CW: I can't figure out who these thousands are demonstrators are. Guess I should watch Fox "News."

Matt Gutman & Colleen Curry of ABC News: Mark O'Mara, the lawyer who represented George Zimmerman in his murder trial, says he will not represent him in future matters "even as police say that Zimmerman or his wife could face charges over Monday's domestic dispute.... O'Mara appeared to struggle with his anger at his client during Monday's incident in which he went to Zimmerman's house while police were still there. During a press conference later, O'Mara was asked if he had any advice for Zimmerman, and he answered, 'Pay me.' ... During the 911 call, [Shellie] Zimmerman reported that George Zimmerman had a gun on him, a claim that police later debunked, saying there was no gun found at the scene and that no one, including Shellie Zimmerman, said they had seen a weapon during the argument." ...

... Cord Jefferson of Gawker: "O'Mara isn't severing all of his ties with his reviled client, of course, because there's still some money to be squeezed from the circus show that is George Zimmerman's life. The lawyer, who now moonlights as a CNN legal analyst, will still serve as Zimmerman's counsel in a defamation suit against NBC." ...

... Karoli of Crooks & Liars is not convinced that George Zimmerman didn't have a gun.

News Ledes

AP: " Sept. 11 victims' loved ones will gather at ground zero to commemorate the attacks' anniversary with the reading of names, moments of silence and serene music that have become tradition."

AFP: "A powerful blast caused serious damage to a foreign ministry building in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on Wednesday, witnesses said. The explosion comes on the first anniversary of an attack by militants on the United States consulate in Benghazi, which killed four Americans, including the ambassador."

Monday
Sep092013

The Commentariat -- Sept. 10, 2013

NEW. Jonathan Weisman & Alan Cowell of the New York Times: "The White House and a bipartisan group of senators joined the international diplomatic momentum on Tuesday to avert an American military attack on Syria over its use of chemical munitions in that country's civil war, responding positively to a Russian proposal aimed at securing and destroying those weapons. The group of senators, including some of President Obama's biggest supporters and critics, were drafting an alternative Congressional resolution that would give the United Nations time to take control of the Syrian government's arsenal of the internationally banned weapons." ...

... NEW. William Englund, et al., of the Washington Post: "A last-ditch effort to avert a U.S. military strike by transferring control of Syrian chemical weapons ran into obstacles Tuesday, as Russia balked at a French plan to enforce an international agreement under a binding U.N. Security Council resolution with a military option if necessary. An unexpected Russian proposal to place Syria's chemical weapons under international monitoring and ultimately destroy them had appeared to be gaining traction earlier in the day, as Syria embraced it, China and Iran voiced support, and the United States said it would explore the idea seriously. But a telephone conversation between French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, revealed a deep divide over their visions of the Security Council's role -- and particularly over the prospect of military action to ensure that an agreement would be honored." ...

... NEW. Sergei Loiko of the Los Angeles Times: "Syria confirmed Tuesday that it has accepted a Russian plan to allow its chemical weapons to be placed under international control and eventually dismantled. The Syrian agreement is based on the understanding that the plan could prevent a U.S. military strike, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said." ...

... Alan Cowell of the New York Times: "As the diplomatic pace quickened around Russia's plan for Syria to relinquish control of its chemical weapons, France said on Tuesday it would propose a United Nations Security Council resolution enshrining the idea while Moscow said it was working with the authorities in Damascus on a 'workable, precise and concrete plan' to carry the proposal forward." CW: I remain pleased that all of the world's superpowers are getting on board the Burns Plan bandwagon. ...

... In another New York Times "new analysis," Peter Baker writes, "In effect, Mr. Obama is now caught between trying to work out a deal with Mr. Putin, with whom he has been feuding lately, or trying to win over Republicans in the House who have made it their mission to block his agenda." ...

     ... CW: for what it's worth, I am more inclined to go with a version of contributor's Diane's analysis (see yesterday's Comments). You have to look at everybody's motives here. Obama credibly claims that the U.S. has been trying for a year to get Russia to encourage Assad to destroy his chemical arsenal. Either Russia wasn't going along or Assad was stonewalling (or a bit of both), but Putin has little motivation to approve of any other country's having chemical weapons, whether or not the country is currently a Russian ally. I have no doubt that Russia stepped up its pressure on Assad after the August attack. There is a reason Assad has been mum on this until Sunday; he, too, was looking for his best advantage. Whether he ordered the attack or, as seems quite possible, some of his military made the call, ultimately he has to take responsibility or he looks weak. There is also a reason that Obama suddenly decided to ask Congress for authorization. Domestically, it was prudent, but his main purpose was to stall to allow Russia time to further pressure Syria --which he was certainly aware was ongoing. There is also a reason that Obama & Putin met during the G-20 even though Obama had announced (a month or so ago) that he would not be meeting with Putin. At the G-20, they continued working out the details & discussing Russia's progress -- Obama or his spokesperson said as much following the meeting. ...

     ... I do think that the Kerry remark was serendipitous (I don't think the reporter, who spoke with an American accent [don't know who she is] was a plant.) After Kerry made the remark about Assad's destroying his weapons, he quickly said, "But that's not going to happen," or words to that effect; i.e., the negotiations between Russia & Syria were still in flux. There's also a reason that France is bringing the resolution to the Security Council; it's payback for their support (and & effort to solidify that support) for a U.S. military strike against Syria. And it's good for Holland, whose parliament is not supportive of a strike. If this whole thing works out, it's a win for everybody. Obama is not, as Baker thinks, caught between a rock & a hard place; it appears he may achieve his goal -- to relieve Assad of his chemical weapons capabilities without getting the U.S. into another trillion-dollar, ten-year war. He should tell the help to polish his Nobel medal. ...

     ... P.S. I should have mentioned another crucial player: Iran, whose new president, Hassan Rouhani, is no Ahm-a-dinnah-jacket, & who definitely does not want to be downwind of Assad's chemical fumes. It's likely he mentioned that to Assad. ...

     ... Update. Ed Kilgore: "... the Russian government's proposal ... could be a game-changer, at least temporarily. It comes, moreover, in the wake of a report from the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz that Russia and Iran were already preparing a peace proposal that involved surrender of chemical weapons and perhaps even a path to free elections in Syria." CW: Haaretz is now subscriber-firewalled, so I'm relying on Kilgore's report. The Haaretz report supports my theory of how all this behind-the-scenes stuff has been unfolding. And Kilgore agrees with me & with the New York Times Editors (see next link) on this much: "... with the situation in the House and in public opinion deteriorating rapidly, this new development could represent a 180-degree change in a positive direction for the Obama administration, and a plausible way out of a military conflict no one but neocons seemed to relish." ...

... CW: The New York Times Editorial Board, whose members generally are smarter than the news staff, have what I think is a better take on the Russian proposal. After outlining how the inspections, etc., must be managed, the editors conclude, "The diplomatic proposal creates at least a pause in the action. It could mean that the United States would not have to go it alone in standing firm against the Syrian regime. And it could open up a broader channel to a political settlement between Mr. Assad and the rebels -- the only practical way to end this war. It could also be a boon for Mr. Obama, personally, because he could take credit for pushing Syria and Russia into making this move." ...

... CW: Zachary Goldfarb of the Washington Post is right about this much: "Speaking Monday in London, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said that a U.S. military strike on Syria would constitute an 'unbelievably small, limited kind of effort.' Later at the White House, President Obama insisted that any such action would be significant. 'The U.S. does not do pinpricks,' he told an NBC News interviewer.... The dueling statements underscored the administration's muddled message on Syria." The reason it's President Obama instead of President Kerry is that Kerry has a long history of veering off-message. ...

... OR, as Joshua Keating of Slate puts it: "Kerry: Turn Over Your Chemical Weapons or Face ... 'Unbelievably Small' Consequences." ...

... Digby has an excellent post, comparing the Kerry gaffe to a blooper that averted the Cuban missile crisis. Read it. ...

... AND Max Read of Gawker has a humorous take on all this war stuff: "So! Maybe an unplanned press-conference line can help us avoid the war that another unplanned press-conference line almost got us into. Not to mention the apocalypse!" (The links are original.) ...

... Meanwhile, Ted Cruz has an op-ed in the Washington Post explaining why a tough guy like him will vote against a resolution to strike Syria. I forgot to read it & forgot to link it (but you can get to it via the WashPo front page, if you're interested). ...

... AND Kevin Drum argues that President Obama, like most presidents, is a happy warrior. ...

... Michael Gordon & Steven Myers of the New York Times: "President Obama called a proposal by Russia on Monday to avert a United States military strike on Syria over chemical weapons use 'a potentially positive development' but said he would continue to press for military action to keep the pressure up":

     ... Jennifer Epstein of Politico: "Obama said the idea of having Russia intervene to try to get Syria to turn over control of its chemical weapons has been on the table for more than a year. 'This is not new,' he told Fox News. 'I've been discussing this with President Putin for some time now,' he said, including conversations at last year's G-20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, and more recently. 'I did have those conversations' last week at the G-2o in St. Petersburg, Russia, he told PBS." ...

     ... Mario Trujillo of the Hill: "President Obama acknowledged Monday [in an interview with NBC] that even his wife, Michelle, is skeptical of having the U.S. become embroiled in another overseas military conflict." ...

... Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday endorsed President Obama's call for military strikes against Syria and said 'it would be an important step' if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad surrendered his stockpile of chemical weapons." ...

... Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday delayed a vote on using military force against Syria. Faced with stiffening opposition from Republicans and skepticism from many Democrats, Reid said he would not rush the vote to begin considering the controversial use-of-force resolution. He insisted he was not delaying action because of a lack of votes. 'I've spoken to the Republican leader. I've talked to virtually all my Democratic senators and we have enough votes to get cloture,' he said." ...

... AP: "President Barack Obama will meet with Republican senators on Capitol Hill Tuesday to appeal for support on a use-of-force resolution against Syria. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's office says the president will attend lunch with the GOP lawmakers. The president had already planned to be on Capitol Hill Tuesday to meet with the Senate Democratic caucus." ...

... AP: "The State Department sought to tamp down the potential impact of [Secretary John] Kerry's comments by calling them a 'rhetorical' response to a hypothetical question and not 'a proposal.' Kerry spoke by phone with [Russian Foreign Minister Sergey] Lavrov shortly after making his comments in London, and officials familiar with the call said Lavrov had told Kerry that he had seen the remarks and would be issuing a public statement." ...

... James Fearon, in the Monkey Cage: "Much better to make a reasonable demand of Assad -- such as verifiably destroy your chemical weapons, and/or sign the CWC -- and then strike if he doesn't comply than to just jump to a punitive spanking. If he says Ok and complies, then Obama will have achieved the goal of stopping further use of chemical weapons in Syria and also of upholding and furthering a global norm against their use. If Assad says No or says Yes and then goes ahead and carries out more gas attacks,. then it is much easier to make the case and probably get more domestic and international support for a punitive strike."

Susan Stellin of the New York Times: "Newly released documents reveal how the government uses border crossings to seize and examine travelers' electronic devices instead of obtaining a search warrant to gain access to the data.... The documents were turned over to David House, a fund-raiser for the legal defense of Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Pfc. Bradley Manning, as part of a legal settlement with the Department of Homeland Security. Mr. House had sued the agency after his laptop, camera, thumb drive and cellphone were seized when he returned from a trip to Mexico in November 2010. The data from the devices was then examined over seven months." Homeland Security singled out House even though he had not been accused of a crime.

Lisa Rein of the Washington Post: "With fiscal pressures continuing to force spending cuts, government agencies made fewer than 90,000 new hires last year, the smallest number in six years and a 37 percent drop since 2009, federal data show." CW: somebody tell Rand Paul, please, because a year ago he thought the federal payroll was ballooning out of control, & I doubt Paul Krugman convinced him otherwise.

More Stupid GOP Tricks. Russell Berman, et al., of the Hill: "House Republican leaders on Tuesday will propose to their members that the House use a complex procedural tactic to defund ObamaCare that would press the fight but likely avoid a government shutdown.... Republicans who caught wind of the plan on Monday told The Hill it was unacceptable, and GOP leadership is anticipating push-back when it presents the proposal to the rank and file on Tuesday morning...."

Steve Benen on "The Three Stooges on the Road to Cairo" (Now Available in Video!): "Three sitting members of Congress decided on their own to do some foreign policy freelancing, contradicting the foreign policy of the United States, and making a propaganda video for those responsible for a military coup, offering support for a deadly crackdown on dissenters. Since when is this considered acceptable?" ...

... Emily Lodish of GlobalPost, in Salon, lists 11 amazing things Bachmann has said about the Middle East & North Africa. CW: only 11?

Local News

David Halbfinger of the New York Times: "On Tuesday, voters will take the first big step toward choosing a successor to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, in a contest that has increasingly turned on key elements of his legacy on public safety and income inequality. But despite a widely publicized free-for-all among multiple candidates, fewer than one in four Democrats and Republicans are expected to cast a ballot in their party primaries." ...

... The New York Times' endorsements are here.

News Ledes

The New York Times is liveblogging New York City primary election results. Just now, at 9:00 pm ET, the Times reports that Bill DeBlasio has a "wide lead" in the race for Democratic candidate for mayor.

Reuters: "A federal appeals court rejected Google Inc's bid to dismiss a lawsuit accusing it of violating federal wiretap law when its accidentally collected emails and other personal data while building its popular Street View program. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to exempt Google from liability under the federal Wiretap Act for having inadvertently intercepted emails, user names, passwords and other data from private Wi-Fi networks to create Street View, which provides panoramic views of city streets."

New York Times: It's election day in New York City. ...

     ... Update: "From Wall Street to Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, voters arrived at polling stations to find that none of the lever machines were working. Even with small crowds, voters described delays as workers struggled with jammed and broken equipment. In many cases, voters resorted to an even older technology: pen and paper."

Sunday
Sep082013

The Commentariat -- Sept. 9, 2013

NEW. Steven Myers, et al., of the New York Times: "A seemingly offhand suggestion by Secretary of State John Kerry that Syria could avert an American attack by relinquishing all of its chemical weapons received a widespread, almost immediate welcome from Syria, Russia, the United Nations, a key American ally and even some Republicans on Monday as a possible way to avoid a major international military showdown in the Syria crisis." ...

     ... Will Englund, et al., of the Washington Post: "The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday said it welcomed a Russian proposal to avert U.S. military strikes by having Damascus turn over control of its chemical weapons to international monitors." ...

     ... CW: since we made a similar proposal here more than a week ago, I'm surprised it has taken so long for the parties to accidentally come up with this idea. Don't these people read Reality Chex? ...

... Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "President Obama's approach to Syria is likely to create an important precedent in the murky legal question of when presidents or nations may lawfully use military force." ...

... Michael Gordon of the New York Times: "Asked if there were steps the Syrian president could take to avert an American-led attack, [Secretary of State John] Kerry said: 'Sure, he could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week -- turn it over, all of it, without delay and allow the full and total accounting.' Mr. Kerry's remarks, which were made at a joint news conference with William Hague, the British foreign secretary, were the latest in a war of words between the Syrian leader and the Obama administration.... 'But he isn't about to do it, and it can't be done,' Mr. Kerry said." ...

... Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former secretary of state and potential 2016 presidential candidate, is planning to make remarks about the intensifying situation in Syria during a visit to the White House on Monday." ...

... Nick Cumming-Bruce of the New York Times: "The appalling suffering in Syria 'cries out for international action,' Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Monday in a speech in Geneva.... [But ] Ms. Pillay warned that 'a military response or the continued supply of arms risk igniting a regional conflagration, possibly resulting in many more deaths and even more widespread misery.'" ...

... Stephen Yellow-Cake Hadley, Dubya's National Security Advisor, in a Washington Post op-ed, "urge[s] Congress to grant President Obama authority to use military force against the Assad regime in Syria." Somehow, this will force Iran to end its nuclear weapons program. Not sure how helpful this is to Obama's case, as Hadley is way short on credibility. ...

... Maybe Hadley, not to mention the Obama administration, should listen to Hassan Rouhani, Iran's president, before they make this dubious claim. Jay Newton-Small of Time reports on Rouhani's moderate tone. ...

... Mark Thomson of Time produces more leaks from the Pentagon, where sources don't like the "squishy" objectives of the Obama plan. Thompson belongs to the school that claims, if Obama is convincing in his speech tomorrow night, "and wins congressional backing, he'll get a chance to launch a military attack, with all the perils that entails. If he fails -- regardless of what he does following such a defeat -- his Administration will be wounded, perhaps mortally, for the rest of his presidency." ...

... Brian Beutler: "Political reporters have a weakness for narratives, and the narrative of a weakened president is irresistible. Moreover, members of Congress will feed that narrative.... If the Syria vote goes down, the gloom and doom tales of Obama's losing gamble will be false. To the extent that Congress has the will to do anything other than vote on an authorization to strike Syria, the outcome of that vote is disconnected from those other issues.... Syria won't derail Obama's second term -- Republicans will. As New York magazine's Dan Amira put it, 'After losing Syria vote, Obama's chances of passing agenda through Congress would go from about 0% to approximately 0%. #hugesetback.'" ...

... Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "The White House chief of staff, Denis R. McDonough..., appeared on all five major Sunday morning news shows to make the administration's case that Congress should authorize an airstrike against the forces of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. Mr. Assad, for his part, said in an interview with Charlie Rose of CBS News that his government was not behind a chemical attack that killed hundreds of civilians and injured many more. In the interview, to be broadcast on Monday, Mr. Assad also said that Syria might retaliate if attacked." ...

... Philip Elliott of the AP: "The White House asserted Sunday that a 'common-sense test' dictates the Syrian government is responsible for a chemical weapons attack that President Barack Obama says demands a U.S. military response. But Obama's top aide [Denis McDonough] says the administration lacks 'irrefutable, beyond-a-reasonable-doubt evidence' that skeptical Americans, including lawmakers who will start voting on military action this week, are seeking." ...

... Alex Isenstadt of Politico: "Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern, a key liberal Democrat, is urging President Barack Obama to withdraw his request for congressional authorization for a military strike on Syria. 'I don't think the support is there,' McGovern said on CNN's 'State of the Union...."

... Here's the Washington Post's update on where members of Congress stand on a vote to authorize the use of force in Syria. ...

... David Sanger, et al., of the New York Times: "Syria's top leaders amassed one of the world's largest stockpiles of chemical weapons with help from the Soviet Union and Iran, as well as Western European suppliers and even a handful of American companies, according to American diplomatic cables and declassified intelligence records." ...

... Joby Warrick of the Washington Post: "Investigators trying to track the flow of weapons to Syria's civil war are focusing on mysterious activity near a Cold War-era military port on the Black Sea.... A new study by independent conflict researchers describes a heavy volume of traffic in the past two years from Ukraine's Oktyabrsk port, just up the Black Sea coast from Odessa, to Syria's main ports on the Mediterranean. The dozens of ships making the journey ranged from smaller Syrian- and Lebanese-flagged vessels to tanker-size behemoths with a long history of hauling weapons cargos."

... Byron Tau of Politico: "White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough says he's outraged by comments from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) that members of the U.S. military would be essentially helping Al Qaeda in Syria. 'I am outraged for somebody to suggest that our people would be serving as allies to Al Qaeda,' McDonough said Sunday on ABC's 'This Week.'" ...

... MEANWHILE. One of the problems with all of this focus on Syria is its missing the ball from what we should be focused on, which is the grave threat from radical Islamic terrorism. This is the one-year anniversary of the attack on Benghazi. In Benghazi, four Americans were killed - including the first ambassador since 1979. When it happened, the president promised to hunt the wrongdoers down, and yet a few months later, the issue has disappeared. You don't hear the president mention Benghazi. Now it's a phony scandal. -- Sen. Ted Cruz (RTP-Texas), on "This Week"

No, Ted, it was always a phony scandal. BTW, it is possible for agents to continue the Benghazi investigation while other officials do other stuff. It's a big government, as you like to remind us. Besides, it was not the President who always 'mentioned Benghazi.' It was you & your craven conspiracy theorist friends. -- Constant Weader

Marcel Rosenbach, et al., of Der Spiegel: "The ... NSA has been taking advantage of the smartphone boom. It has developed the ability to hack into iPhones, android devices and even the BlackBerry, previously believed to be particularly secure.... For an agency like the NSA, the data storage units are a goldmine, combining in a single device almost all the information that would interest an intelligence agency: social contacts, details about the user's behavior and location, interests (through search terms, for example), photos and sometimes credit card numbers and passwords." ...

... Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post: "The Obama administration secretly won permission from a surveillance court in 2011 to reverse restrictions on the National Security Agency's use of intercepted phone calls and e-mails, permitting the agency to search deliberately for Americans' communications in its massive databases, according to interviews with government officials and recently declassified material. In addition, the court extended the length of time that the NSA is allowed to retain intercepted U.S. communications from five years to six years -- and more under special circumstances, according to the documents, which include a recently released 2011 opinion by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, then chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court." ...

... Matt Buchanan of the New Yorker: "In response to the latest revelations re: the NSA's "cracking the code," Representative Rush Holt of New Jersey has introduced a bill, the Surveillance State Repeal Act, which would, among other things, bar the N.S.A. from installing such backdoors into encryption software. While a statement from the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper -- published after the reports by the Times and the Guardian -- said that the fact that the N.S.A. works to crack encrypted data was 'not news,' Holt said, correctly, that 'if in the process they degrade the security of the encryption we all use, it's a net national disservice.'" Buchanan cites a number of experts, most of whom claim the NSA is something of a rogue agency.

Kimberly Kindy of the Washington Post: "A meat inspection program that the Agriculture Department plans to roll out in pork plants nationwide has repeatedly failed to stop the production of contaminated meat at American and foreign plants that have already adopted the approach, documents and interviews show. The program allows meat producers to increase the speed of processing lines by as much as 20 percent and cuts the number of USDA safety inspectors at each plant in half, replacing them with private inspectors employed by meat companies. The approach has been used for more than a decade by five American hog plants under a pilot program. But three of these plants were among the 10 worst offenders in the country for health and safety violations, with serious lapses that included failing to remove fecal matter from meat...." CW: So the plan is, "Eat shit, people." I don't think the USDA understands its purpose, which is to protect consumers. But then maybe that's because a good chunk of Congress doesn't understand this, either.

Ben Protess & Susanne Craig of the New York Times dig into why the S.E.C. never brought criminal charges against Lehman Brothers executives, even when the chair of the agency, Mary Schapiro, urged investigators to do so. Why not sue for civil violations? Oh, yeah, Lehman was bankrupt. ...

... Banking Like It's 2008. Robert Reich, in Salon: "... the gambling addiction of Wall Street's biggest banks is more dangerous than ever. Five years ago this September, Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, and the Street hurtled toward the worst financial crisis in eighty years. Yet the biggest Wall Street banks are far larger now than they were then. And the Dodd-Frank rules designed to stop them from betting with the insured deposits of ordinary savers are still on the drawing boards -- courtesy of the banks' lobbying prowess. The so-called Volcker Rule has yet to see the light of day."

** Paul Krugman: Modern conservativism is a cult of conspiracy theorists & know-nothings. "Unfortunately..., this runaway cult controls the House, which gives it immense destructive power.... And it's disturbing to realize that this power rests in the hands of men who, thanks to the wonk gap, quite literally have no idea what they're doing."

... AND David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times, in a news report, might just as well have typed, "Tea Party Republicans are dangerous ignoramuses." Instead, he writes, "Two months after the military ousted Egypt's first elected president and began a bloody crackdown on his supporters, a delegation of House Republicans visited Cairo over the weekend to tell the new government to keep up the good work.” Read the whole report. Kirkpatrick refutes all of the MOCs' claims & lets an expert on Egypt compare the Bachmann-Gohmert-Steve King expedition to "a 'Saturday Night Live' skit -- unbelievable, ludicrous, almost comic if it wasn't so painful." It really is refreshing to see a Times reporter call out these yahoos.

Sara Sorcher of the National Journal: "The sexual-assault epidemic plaguing the Armed Forces is rooted in a hypermasculine ethos that fosters predation."

Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker has a long piece on President Obama & the Keystone XL pipeline.

Local News

Bill DeBlasio & his family answer New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's charge that De Blasio is running a "racist" campaign because DeBlasio's family campaigns with/for him....

...CW: Bloomberg's claim was extraordinarily stupid; if politicians followed Bloomberg's Rule, no family members could campaign for their relatives because everyone, after all, is a member of some "groups." Lady Ann Romney, ferinstance, is a (1) rich, (2) white, (3) Mormon (4) female (5) horsewoman who (6) suffers from MS. Maybe Bloomberg just resents candidates who have, um, spouses. ...

... Chris Smith of New York assesses Michael Bloomberg's mayoralty.

Presidential Race 2016

Dan Friedman of the New York Daily News: " Rep. Peter King won't be the best known Republican presidential candidate in 2016, but he is the first. King, making his second of four scheduled visits to [New Hampshire] in the summer and fall, told a New Hampshire radio station Friday that he's there 'because right now I'm running for President.'" CW: King added that he was having trouble getting bookings on the teevee shows lately, and this seemed like a good way to boost his face time.

News Ledes

Orlando Sentinel: "George Zimmerman's wife called 911 on Monday afternoon to report that her husband was threatening her family with a gun, but she later would not press charges.... In the 911 call, Shellie Zimmerman tells a dispatcher that her husband had 'his hand on his gun and he keeps saying step closer.' 'Step closer and what?' a dispatcher asks. 'And he's going to shoot us,' Shellie Zimmerman replies." ...

     ...AP, via the New York Times: "The sobbing wife of George Zimmerman called 911 Monday to report that her estranged husband was threatening her with a gun and had punched her father in the nose, but hours later decided not to press charges...." CW: Remember, this guy is a hero of the right. Maybe now that George is threatening white people, authorities will take away his guns. ...

     ... Tape of Shellie Zimmerman's 911 call is here. A commenter on Gawker asks, "Where's the neighborhood watchman when you need him?"

Saturday
Sep072013

The Commentariat -- Sept. 8, 2013

David Cloud of the Los Angeles Times: " The Pentagon is preparing for a longer bombardment of Syria than it originally had planned, with a heavy barrage of missile strikes followed soon after by more attacks on targets that the opening salvos missed or failed to destroy, officials said. The planning for intense attacks over a three-day period reflects the growing belief in the White House and the Pentagon that the United States needs more firepower to inflict even minimal damage on Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces, which have been widely dispersed over the last two weeks, the officials said." ...

... Jennifer Epstein of Politico: "President Obama will sit for interviews Monday with six TV networks as he makes his case to the nation for military intervention in Syria." ...

     ... President Obama won't be convincing Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.). ...

... Mike Allen & Jennifer Epstein of Politico: "Retired Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, former CIA director under President Barack Obama, called strongly Saturday for Congress to back the White House on Syria, declaring that military action against the regime is 'necessary' to deter 'Iran, North Korea and other would-be aggressors.'" ...

... ** Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post: "The European Union called Saturday for a 'clear and strong' international response to what it said was 'strong evidence' that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government was responsible for a massive chemical weapons attack two weeks ago near Damascus. But the E.U. statement stopped far short of endorsing a U.S. military strike -- something that U.S. officials acknowledged many of the organization's 28 members do not support. E.U. foreign ministers, after listening to Secretary of State John F. Kerry explain the U.S. position on punishing Syria with a limited strike, also indicated that no action should take place until U.N. chemical weapons inspectors release their report at least two weeks from now. A similar delay was advocated Friday by French President François Hollande, whose government had said until last week that it was 'ready' to participate in a U.S.-led military strike against Syria." ...

... Nicholas Kristof: "So while neither intervention nor paralysis is appealing, that's pretty much the menu. That's why I favor a limited cruise missile strike against Syrian military targets (as well as the arming of moderate rebels). As I see it, there are several benefits: Such a strike may well deter Syria's army from using chemical weapons again, probably can degrade the ability of the army to use chemical munitions and bomb civilian areas, can reinforce the global norm against chemical weapons, and -- a more remote prospect -- may slightly increase the pressure on the Assad regime to work out a peace deal." ...

... CW: The New York Times posts this "news analysis" by Sam Tanenhaus on its front page. Tanenhaus claims that "the presidency itself has ceded much of its power and authority to Congress." I'm not an historian, but I think that's bull. "Strong" presidents were strong because their own party controlled Congress or because they concentrated on foreign affairs where the Constitution grants the executive more power. FDR, perhaps the country's most effective president, had both. Tanehaus seems to be of the impression that Reagan was a super-president. Well, no. He made deep concessions to the Democratic Congress, & has often been noted, he could not even be nominated by the Republican base today, even if he did pander shamelessly to the racist element (as indeed he did). If you know better, I welcome your comments. ...

     ... Andrew Rudalevige, a political scientist who teachers a "presidency course," writes in the Monkey Cage, "The idea that presidents have 'ceded' power and authority to Congress? Surely most of it was Congress's to begin with. Especially since the examples given in the paper -- Newt Gingrich's House, George W. Bush's failure to win passage of his proposals for immigration or Social Security reform -- are examples of legislators making legislative choices. Congress is, um, the legislative branch. It certainly is under no obligation to enact presidential requests into law. Indeed, it has a variety of powers even in national security areas." And so on.

... AND Maureen Dowd is into her usual pop psychoanalysis of "Barry." Seems he has a split personality & that's what is making him cede the presidency to Congressional teabaggers. ...

... PLUS, Ross Douthat piles on: "It is to President Obama's great discredit that he has staked this credibility on a vote whose outcome he failed to game out in advance."

Joseph Menn of Reuters: "Internet security experts are calling for a campaign to rewrite Web security in the wake of disclosures that the U.S. National Security Agency has developed the capability to break encryption protecting millions of sites.... Leading technologists said they felt betrayed that the NSA, which has contributed to some important security standards, was trying to ensure they stayed weak enough that the agency could break them." ...

... Al Jazeera has a useful timeline of the publications of Ed Snowden's leaks.

New York Times Editors: "The Justice Department filed a brief last month in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington against two towns for failing to provide adequate legal assistance for poor defendants. The department's filing ... did not take a position on the merits of the plaintiffs' claim, but it starkly described what Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. has called the 'state of crisis.' in public defender systems nationwide.... Fifty years after the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution guarantees every criminal defendant a lawyer, the right to effective counsel remains an empty promise in too many parts of the country. The Justice Department's filing in the Washington lawsuit is an encouraging sign that the federal government is beginning to back up that promise with the weight of its authority."

Dana Milbank, no doubt after extensive research, finds an heroic Republican -- Rep. Adam Kinzinger from Illinois. Kinzinger, among other attributes, is not afraid to call out Ted Cruz for his cheap shots at the President.

Senatorial Race

Contributor P. D. Pepe links to this New Republic essay by Noam Scheiber: "Outside the context of a local politician struggling to fund his agenda, [Newark Mayor & U.S. Senate candidate Cory] Booker's worldview -- the mild suspicion of government initiative, the trivialization of paying taxes as a way to bring about change, the sanctification of corporate do-gooding -- is a few ticks to the right of a Clinton-era New Democrat. Really more like enlightened Paul Ryan-ism. There are definitely worse philosophies. But it's not exactly progressive." CW: contributor Diane's comment on Booker, in yesterday's thread, which inspired Pepe's link, is IMHO, exactly right. And it agrees perfectly with Scheiber's extended observations.

Local News

Chris Smith interviews NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg for New York magazine. The bit other news outlets are picking up: Bloomberg says leading mayoral candidate Bill De Blasio is running a "class-warfare and racist" campaign. ...

... Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg set off a firestorm Saturday when he called mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio's campaign 'racist' in a New York Magazine interview. Bloomberg made the case that de Blasio's campaign was 'racist' for using his family to gain support in the black community equating it to him pointing out that he was Jewish to attract the Jewish vote. In previous mayoral campaigns that's exactly what Bloomberg did." Kaczyski lists some examples of Bloomberg's going Hebrew even though he is, according to Kaczynski, "not observant." Via Steve M., who has more.

News Ledes

USA Today: "The man who has become the face of the NAACP ... is resigning effective Dec. 31. In an interview with USA Today, Benjamin Todd Jealous said the constant travel as president and CEO of the nation's largest civil rights organization has kept him away too much from his wife, civil rights lawyer Lia Epperson, and children.... He said he plans to make a formal announcement to his staff Monday morning."

AFP: "Low-cost carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle on Sunday announced a new technical problem with one of its Boeing 787 'Dreamliners', as the plane was grounded due to a flaw in its electrical system."

Los Angeles Times: "After years of largely bad news, crowds in Tokyo roared in excitement as they watched the announcement, streamed live here, that their city has been selected as the host of the 2020 Summer Olympics."